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“She misses you,” Avery says in a sympathetic voice. “So do I for that matter.”

“I miss you too and I can’t thank you enough for watching her for me until I can get back on my feet.”

We spend a few minutes filling each other in on our respective lives over the past few days.

I tell her more details about Dad’s hospitalization.

She tells me that Thomas has learned to cross his eyes and now does it for every photo that’s ever taken.

I tell her a funny story about one of my Xtreme Fit clients who always smells like cumin, a not altogether unpleasant aroma, just not one you like smelling on a person.

She tells me that Rob, her husband, started playing on a rec hockey league this week and already broke his nose.

I tell her about Hawke.

Well, I more or less blurt it out in an unrestrained bark of admission. “I slept with Hawke two days ago.”

Avery knows that Hawke and I have crossed paths. I’d told her all about the first time we talked and how awkward it was. I’d told her about his olive branch and that we settled into a friendly routine. I’d told her about Hawke molesting me in his bathroom—but omitted how much I enjoyed it—and that he outed us to Todd. She knows this sort of precipitated Todd’s proposal, which in turn precipitated my ending the relationship with him.

But she never in a million years thought we’d have sex, and this is confirmed when she screeches, “You did what?”

“I slept with Hawke,” I practically whine. “It was when Dad got put into the hospital and I was exhausted and vulnerable and I needed some comfort, familiarity.”

“You needed an orgasm,” Avery says emphatically. “Right? That’s all it was, I bet.”

I’m silent.

And the silence is damning.

“Tell me that’s all it was,” Avery demands.

“Well, to me it was—”

She rolls right over me. “That son of a bitch doesn’t deserve more than that from you, Vale. You know I was never his biggest fan, but after he wouldn’t return your calls and email…well, he just can’t have more of you than some hot hookup sex. Don’t give him more than that.”

Her last statement is a plea.

She’s begging me not to put myself in a position where I can get hurt again, so I quickly reassure her. “Don’t worry, Av. It was definitely only a hookup for Hawke; he’s apparently still holding a grudge—”

“Why?” Avery demands. “He has no right.”

“Regardless,” I say gently. “It was just a one-time thing. We’ve both moved past it.”

“Are you sure?”


No, I’m not past it.

“Because he’ll hurt you again if you let him in,” Avery points out. “And besides…I bet the sex wasn’t even as good as you remembered it, right?”

“Totally awful,” I tell her.

Best. Sex. Ever.

“Hawke is selfish,” she adds. “Remember that. He thinks about no one but himself.”

“Selfish as they come,” I murmur.

Except…he’s given his time freely to my dad and me, being a rock-solid means of support.

“Listen, honey,” Avery says briskly. “Rob just came home from work and I need to get dinner going.”

“Okay,” I say as I stand from the bed and arch my back. “I’m going to hop in the shower and hit the bed early. I’ve got to train a client tomorrow, then the Cold Fury have an evening game so I’ll have to be at the arena by three P.M.”

“Love you,” Avery says. “Talk in a few days?”

“Yup. Your turn to call.”

“Got it, toots. Later.”

“Later,” I say quietly, and disconnect the call. I rub the end of the cellphone over my lower lip thoughtfully. Avery gave some good advice. Trying to rekindle anything with Hawke would not be a smart move. I’m here temporarily. As soon as my dad’s better, he’s going home to Sydney and I’m going…well, I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m probably not going to stay here long term. Besides, no matter how combustible we may still be in the sex department, that alone isn’t reason enough to be with someone. And it’s been abundantly clear, past the sex and maybe a timid fondness for an old friend, we don’t have much else binding us together.

I take an extralong shower, relishing the actual time I have to dawdle. I have to say, the one good thing about Dad being in the hospital and me taking a few days off from work, I’ve totally caught up on my sleep. After blow-drying my hair, I put on a pair of old Penn State sweatpants and a white tank top. While I’d normally go braless in this “pre-sleep” getup, and would just shed the sweatpants prior to climbing into bed, I decide to go watch some TV with my dad and hang out. As such, the bra goes on under the tank top, because as much as I love my dad and we make pretty good roommates, there are just certain clothing requirements that have to be maintained. I wear a bra at all times in his presence and he promises to never come out of his room in just his boxer shorts.

Putting my hair up in a loose ponytail, I decide I’ll do my nails while I hang with my dad and grab some Perfectly Pearly Pink nail polish from the cabinet underneath the sink. He’ll probably want to watch sports, which is fine by me. I’m just relishing every day I have with him, even if it’s spent doing something as mundane as painting my nails and watching TV.

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